Well I finally got out of Gatlinburg on Thursday morning. They reopened the road and I gladly hopped on the first shuttle back up to Newfound Gap. Totally different world up there. The sun was shining and there were tourists everywhere. 10 of us thru hikers hoped out of a van with packs and started hiking up the icy trail. I've never gotten so many strange looks in my life. Everyone there clearly thought we were crazy.
Turned out to be an awesome day of hiking. Probably the prettiest section of the whole park or even the AT for that matter (at least so far)...and I had the sun on my face and snow still on the trees. Of course, it wouldn't last...
Friday, it snowed again, but I wasn't too concerned because I knew we were dropping a couple thousand feet on the way out of the park, but when I got half way down, the snow turned to rain.
We had heard that Fresh Grounds, who is basically the god of trail magic, was camped a few miles ahead. So saturday morning, we got up extra early and headed to him. Hot dogs, soup, Gatorade, chocolate, fresh fruit, etc etc, he had it all. Even a little homemade Tennessee moonshine, which goes down pretty smooth at 9:30am. Headed out of there to make some miles, turned out to be a entire day of sloshing in the mud and the snow. Was still excited to get to Max Patch though, which is in every AT highlight video. Right before there, I came across a snowman someone had built with a big bag around its neck of yoohoos and oatmeal cream pies. Absolutely. Amazing.
Got up to Max Patch just in time for a little sun, and the place did not disappoint at all. A huge grassy bald with 360 views of the surrounding mountains.
Pretty easy, slightly wet, and muddy day on Sunday, stayed at a shelter only 3 miles out of Hot Springs. Walked into town this morning for some rest and beer.
Oh, also, I found out they closed the road to Newfound Gap AGAIN! Yikes. Glad to be done with the Smokies.
3 weeks in and 274 miles down.